Killed in HMS Vanguard

An Earley man went down with HMS Vanguard, which exploded at Scapa Flow. It remains one of the worst accidental disasters to befall the Royal Navy.

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list: Howard Bull, Russell Harmer, Leonard Tovey.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

SICK OR WOUNDED: Leonard Brown, Gilbert Adams, Frank Hayward.
DIED OF WOUNDS: Robert Newton, William Murphy.
KILLED IN HMS “VANGUARD”: James Hall.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

The “Scroungers’ Retreat”

Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence to tell her about his experiences in officer training. His fellow trainees were mainly NCOs with experience of the worst of the war, and were not easily corraled by their superiors.

Attd C Company
58th TRB
Sergeants Mess
No 9 Camp
Kinmel Park
Rhyl

July 26, 1917
My dear WF

I’m very fit indeed, working very hard and always hungry. We are exceptionally well fed, I think, and conditions are good.

It’s very difficult to write as several of the boys are telling their experiences, and every now and then they touch ground I know and I have to join in. One man has just been minutely describing the bundling and labelling of corpses for the fat factory as seen by him, and another the manacling of maritime gunners to their guns, also as seen by him. Both descriptions are so minute and definite as to be convincing. I’ve only to meet someone who has actually seen a corpse factory and I shall be a confirmed Kadaverite.

The battle of wits – the staff v. us continues with varying success. The routine is changed daily to put us off our stroke and get ahead of us, but the same crowd who lay themselves out to “dodge the column” successfully carry on just as usual, appearing on parade, answering the roll call and vanishing into the blue before any work is done with consistent ability. This rather large section of our number have a discipline of their own. Backsliders are dealt with by courtmartial. Absence from the “Scroungers Retreat” (a quiet marquee in the neighbourhood) seems to be the most seriously looked upon offence, and is dealt with very harshly, the punishment being I believe to attend next parade and answer for all the others from their hut who are not there.

Of course, being out of training, I find the work very hard indeed, quite apart from my ignorance of it which is another difficulty with me, but I can feel myself growing straighter and stronger every day and look forward to being a Samson soon.

By the way I’ve had 2 days trench digging. It’s extraordinary how difficult such a menial job as digging earth and throwing it out of the trench is. An experienced man will throw his shovel of earth intact 10-20 feet away in any direction. The novice finds it difficult to throw and direct and very hard to keep together.

I can see I shall very soon be nailed down to drill and books – that is, as soon as I get to a cadet unit. Until then I’m not taking this business too seriously, and simply concentrate upon breaking myself in physically. You’d scacrcely credit how absurdly soft my hands and feet were. They are hardening up rapidly, but I’m still a pretty blistered object.

Well my dear girl, I feel this is a very uninteresting letter, but conditions are very trying for letter writing so you’ll have to please excuse it.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/53-57)

Loss of a dreadnought

Florence Vansittart Neale may be referring to the sinking of the dreadnought-class ship HMS Vanguard on 9 July 1917 at Scapa Flow. It was a catastrophic loss of life.

14 July 1917

Heard loss of “Dreadnought”.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Several wounded since the late terrible fighting

There was worrying news for families in Mortimer West End.

West End

News of our Sailors and Soldiers

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Thomas Henry Dicker. He had recently been transferred to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and was on the “Arcadian” when it was torpedoed and, unhappily, was amongst those lost. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Dicker on the loss of their eldest son.

News has been received of several wounded since the late terrible fighting. James Bailey writes cheerily of his wounds and it is good to hear that Arthur Penny’s are notified as slight while Gilbert Cowdry, at the time of writing, has gone to a convalescent home. Mr. Harry Trelawny, after having slight concussion of the brain, went into the line again but is once more in hospital, suffering from shell-shock.

Charles Murrell, R.N., has been home on leave and Alfred Cowdry has joined the Royal Navy.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

German destroyers sunk

Florence Vansittart Neale was pleased with the latest news from the Navy.

5 June 1917
Two German destroyers sunk.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Hard fighting in France

Florence Vansittart Neale was cheered by the latest from the Front.

18 May 1917

Bullecourt finally taken by us after hard fighting – attacks [illegible] since May 5.

French say we have sunk 23 submarines between May 1-5.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Much abuse of the manpower of the nation”

The Dodeka Club discussed government inefficiency in putting people’s skills to the best use.

The 283rd meeting of the Dodeka was held at Baynes’ on April 13th 1917.

Much interest was shown in the early part of the evening in Morris’s recent experiences with burglars, the full account of which was heard by many for the first time.

After refreshments the host called on Morris for the paper.

Morris, after explaining that he had been unable to prepare a paper suggested as material for discussion, the two topics had been prominently before the public during recent weeks, namely “Man Power” and “National Service”. The secretary, after some thought, concluded that the best title for Morris’s remarks would be (with apologies to Dickens), “The Art of Circumlocution, or How not to do it”.

Many instances were given of Navy business methods. Orders being sent for confirmation from Reading to Winchester, Winchester to Salisbury, Salisbury to the War Office, and being received back via the same route, thus wasting much valuable time. Instances were given of skilled mechanics being put to road making and men off the land being put to the work of mechanics, such as painting, etc. it was concluded that there was much abuse of the manpower of the nation, and that the War Office had no direct methods of dealing with any business.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

A record of which we may well be proud

Ascot churchgoers sent care parcels to their friends in the forces, and entertained strangers in the Royal Flying Corps.

ASCOT SAILORS AND SOLDIERS COMMITTEE.

In January a parcel was sent to Ascot men in the Navy or Army serving abroad “with every good wish for a happy New Year from your friends in Ascot.” The parcel contained a fitting writing case, a pair of thick socks, and some candles for the men in the trenches, and was sent to 12 men in the Navy, 75 men in France, and 13 in Egypt, Salonica and Mesopotamia.

Many letters have since been received from the men thanking Ascot for their kind thoughts of them, and giving good accounts of themselves. The cost of the parcels with the postages has more than exhausted the funds at the disposal of the Committee, and we must hope of means of replenishing the fund before long.

We are very pleased to hear that Sergeant Grimmett has been recommended for a commission, and we cordially congratulate him. This will make the sixth commission specially earned by Ascot, and is surely a record of which we may well be proud. The names of the gallant six are- 2nd Lieuts. Baker, Grimmett, Robinson, Stuart, Taylor and Watson, and we wish them “Good Luck.”

We regret to have to add the name of William J. Tidy (Gun Section H. A. C.) to our Prisoners of War.

CLUB ROOM for the men of the Royal Flying Corps.

Through the earnestness and energy of several ladies of All Saints congregation a Club Room has been opened at the Fire Brigade Station in High Street, the Committee of the Brigade having most kindly lent their premises for the purpose.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

Conscientious objectors honoured

It is unusual to see a conscientious objector listed on a church’s roll of honour.

Spencer’s Wood Roll of Honour.

Tom Allen, Canadian.
Cpl. W. Appleby, R.B.
*Edward Beales, R.B.
Alfred Beken, R.F.A.
*Arthur Bradfield,R.B.
*Archie Butler, Territorials.
Fred Card, R.E.
Charlie Clacey, R.N.
Tom Clements, R.F.C.
Will Clements, A.S.C.
Ted Clements, R.F.A.
Frank Cocks, R.B.
Charlie Cocks, R.B.
Harry Coffill, R.N.
Charlie Day, R.B.
Dick Day, Devon Regt.
Jacob Didcock, R.N.
Cpl. Fred Didcock.
Sgt. W.Doherty, Man. Regt.
*Jim Double, R.E.
Percy Double, R.B.
Chappie Double, R.B.
Sgt. Kenneth Eggleton, A.M.C.
E. Eggleton.
E. Foster, R.E.
Sgt. Hawkins, R.B.
Reginald Jewell. R.B. (wounded).
Reginald Lee, R.A.M.C.
Edgar Lee, R.E.
Wilfred Lowe, R.F.C.
Leonard Luckwell, Coldstream Guards.
Walter Luckwell, R.F.A.
A. Marcham, R.B.
A.H. Marcham, R.B.
Jolly Middleton.
Arthur Middleton.
Sydney Middleton, R.F.C.
Harry Moss, A.S.C.
Arthur Moss, A.S.C.
Albert Povey, R.B.
William Povey, R.B. (prisoner of war).
– Sloper (C. objector).
Fred Swain, A.S.C.
Bert Swain, A.S.C.
Leonard Swain, Coldstream Guards.
S. Tiller.
*Alfred Watkins, Canadian.
George Webb, Berks Yeomanry.
Edwin Webb, Berks Yeomanry.
Charles Webb, Berks Yeomanry.
Sgt. Wallace Webb, C.C.
Stanley Webb, R.F.A.
Lieut. William Wheeler, C.Dr.
Owen Wheeler, R.E.
Lce-Cpl. H. Wheeler, R.B.
*Laurie White, R.N.
Frank Wilson, R.F.A.
William Wilson, R.B.
Fred Wiseman, East Kent.

*Has made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, March 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

A day of wild rumours

The area was swept with particularly wild rumours about a possible invasion.

27 March 1917

Day of wild rumours. Our navy defeated! Big battle North Sea for 3 days! Germans landed Scotland. All troops mobilized. Nothing in papers.

Went on all today. That there was a great N. Sea battle – 11 ships lost! Then 9!! The Germans had landed in Scotland – then on east coast. All troops from neighbourhood sent away. The Engineers at Maidenhead left Sunday, Marlow this morning. (This latter is true). Also Sydney Elliott at Bramshott, then suddenly mobilized to go somewhere. Heatley said it was a rising in Ireland. Nothing in the papers – morning or night, except Londoner’s Diary laughing at the reports. Last version Germans had taken Scotland!!!

No petrol substitutes to be given out. No more petrol allowance after end April!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“The German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s Admiralty official husband, or one of his colleagues, was encouraging about the Navy’s successes.

19 March 1917

I hear through the Admiralty we think we have mastered the submarines, but the mines are still troublesome & will be for some time.

Also the German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that Asquith & Churchill should be impeached

Expat Will Spencer had plenty to interest him in the Swiss newspapers – the first news of the Russian Revolution, plus the official enquiry into the fiasco of the Dardanelles expedition.

16 March 1917

Max Ohler’s birthday.

News in the paper of a revolution in St Petersburg. Also a rumour that the Czar is a prisoner, & has abdicated, & that his brother, the Grand-duke Michael Alexandrovitch, has been appointed regent….

Read an article in by the London correspondent of the “Bund” on the report of the Commission which was appointed to enquire into the conduct of the British Dardanelles Expedition. Lloyd George had said in Feb. 1915 that the Army was not there to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the Navy. The responsibility for the land operations(100,000 killed, wounded & missing, & 100,000 sick) being persevered with, rested with Asquith, Churchill & – though one is reluctant to say it under the circumstances – chiefly with the late Lord Kitchener.

My question is, did Asquith know that the chances of success were too small to justify the prosecution of the campaign? Or did he think it best to be guided by the opinion of Kitchener, & was it the expressed opinion of the latter that the chances were good enough. In the latter case, I am sorry for Asquith. The expedition was an expensive failure, but if the attempt had not been made, probably plenty would have said afterwards that it ought to have been made. It is always much easier to judge after the event.

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that by way of a warning to others, Asquith & Churchill should be impeached. Apparently it was from Australia & New Zealand that the demand for an enquiry came, very large contingents from those colonies having taken part & suffered heavily in the campaign.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

Pounding the Germans

Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced in the war news.

14 March 1917

Almost at Bapaume, pounding the Germans. Outer defences are gone. Our guns doing great havoc. Gunboats up Tigris.

Heard from Maisie 2 subs sunk in Clyde.

C. Menzies told me 9 sunk in 5 days. Navy jubilant. We had new bomb flung from destroyers, if it does not hit the periscope makes such commotion in water submarine comes up. Then our guns go at them.

Henry busy day at Maidenhead – District Council – massage – Tribunal.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“The nation generally has not yet realised the gravity of the situation”

Cranbourne people were encouraged to invest their savings in the war effort.

The Sunday School was crowded on Thursday, March 8th, when Mrs. Boyce gave a very vigorous address on “Food Saving.” She said that the nation generally had not yet realised the gravity of the situation, and the necessity for the control of food. We had suffered from want of foresight on the part of the Government, not merely during the early months of the War, but during the work and self-sacrifice of us who remain in the safety of our homes.

Our Sailors and Soldiers are doing their bit. We also have to do our bit by using as sparingly as possible all commodities that are sea-borne.

Mr. Creasy after spoke on the subject of war-savings.

It may interest residents of Cranbourne to know that a National War Savings Association has been started, and up to date 134 people have joined. Anyone may join, and a card is supplied. The subscriptions are paid by buying sixpenny coupons and affixing them to the cards. When a member has 31 sixpenny coupons on his card a War Savings Certificate will then be given in exchange for the completed card.

War Savings Certificates for 15/6 may, if desired, be purchased outright. The money paid by each person is sent at once to the Treasury, London, it is in fact money lent to the Government, who in return give generous terms. For 15/6 the Government agree in five years to give one pound sterling.

All the money collected is spent on the Army and Navy to provide men, ships, guns and munitions to terminate this great war.

The more money each individual leads the Government the sooner relations and friends will return to their homes and settle down to a peaceful life once more.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, April 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/4)